March 7, 2019

Weekend Recap: Beaver Creek Talons Challenge

Recap of February 23-24

This was a really exciting weekend for me, as I achieved a huge ski goal for myself! And when that was done, I also got some down time as I gear up to get back on the road for work.

Friday was a busy day of work (as usual), but I was able to book some calls for the afternoon during which I could drive out to the mountains. I left around 1:30pm, well before the Friday night traffic kicked in… but due to some icy roads and accidents that closed down I-70, I still ended up stuck in a traffic jam and with an extra hour on the road. No fun! Fortunately, I had nowhere to be and nothing to do, so it was no real problem.

Although I had originally thought I’d take myself out to dinner, by the time I got into Vail, I was tired – so instead I decided I’d cook at the house and also indulge in a glass of wine. Lately, I’ve been watching old episodes of Sex and the City while I cook (since they don’t really require much attention and are still mildly entertaining), and it ended up being the perfect night – cooking pesto pasta, sipping a glass of red wine, watching Sex and the City, and then cozying up in bed with a book and heading to bed early. I was so content!

Yes, I do realize this is a total cliche. I don’t care – it was so relaxing!

Saturday morning I woke up well before my alarm, and ready to go. It was Talons Challenge day, and I was thrilled to see from Open Snow that we had gotten a few inches of fresh powder! I had been worried about a few of the double diamond runs if they were icy, but with powder, I’d be all set. (I hoped.) I felt pretty psyched for what lay ahead!

Let’s DO this!

My gameplan was to start with a warmup run on Larkspur, since those single black runs are pretty short and pretty easy, then do the rest of Larkspur at the end of the day. As soon as that one warmup run was done, I was going to head over to Birds of Prey to knock out Golden Eagle (the men’s super-G slalom course from the World Cup, which is super steep and tends to get skied off quickly) and Peregrine (a double black diamond that isn’t particularly tough but has a weird pitch to it that I don’t like andmakes me feel like it’s steeper than it is). With those two done, I’d head over to Grouse Mountain to tackle the double black mogul runs there: Bald Eagle, Falcon Park, and Osprey. I’d wrap up with the easier double blacks on Birds of Prey, tackle all the single blacks on Grouse, and finally end with the really easy single blacks on Larkspur. It was going to be a long day!

As I headed up the chair lift from Centennial, though, I decided to change my strategy. Rather than wasting a run going down Redtail to get over to Larkspur, I could take the Cinch lift all the way to the top of the mountain, and then my first run of the day could be one of the runs in the challenge: Goshawk. No wasted skiing! However, Goshawk is a double black diamond. Could I really do a double black as my “warmup” run for the day??

Two minutes in, the answer seemed to be “no”. I plowed into a pile of powder, my (non-powder) skis got totally stuck, and down I went. Yes, just a few minutes in and I was already falling! But I was still pumped about the day and in a positive mood… so I laboriously stood myself back up, and then continued down the mountain. I wasn’t going to let this get me down!

With Goshawk now done, I headed for Peregrine next – and it really wasn’t anywhere near as scary as I remembered. Now came the real test: Golden Eagle. The run wasn’t skied off yet, and there also weren’t too many people on it – it was fun! I decided that I might as well finish out Birds of Prey so I could be totally done, and decided that to check off Kestrel, I’d head down Golden Eagle one more time instead of dealing with Peregrine. Golden Eagle was once again fabulous, and on the traverse from the top of Birds of Prey lift to the top of Golden Eagle, I came across an Epic Mix photographer. He grabbed a quick pic of me right by the World Cup sign – the bright sun meant the colors didn’t come out perfectly, but I was loving life!

Done with Birds of Prey and onto Grouse Mountain!

I was now feeling pretty confident, and got in line for Grouse Mountain to check off Bald Eagle. I had only done this run for the first time the week before, and found it to be both very steep and consisting purely of giant moguls. But thanks to the blanket of snow on top, it wasn’t too bad! I checked that off quickly, then headed for Falcon Park – the only run I had never done before the challenge.

Falcon Park was pretty narrow – a steep, heavily moguled black diamond that had clumps of trees sprinkled throughout. Unfortunately, when I was skiing it, so were a ton of other people, and it became pretty annoying to have to keep waiting for other people to clear a spot before I could go ahead and ski to it. (I was admittedly making wide turns on most of the moguled double diamonds, and not just schussing down.) But despite the crowds, I absolutely loved this run – I think it may be my new favorite trail at Beaver Creek! Looking forward to getting back to it another weekend.

With that out of the way, I headed for Osprey next. This was my last double diamond and then I’d be on to all the singles! I was psyched – both because it gave me confidence that I could really finish this challenge (I was only halfway done from a number of trails perspective, but the second half would be easier trails than the first), and also because my legs were about ready for a break 🙂

One really fun thing about this challenge was that everyone was much friendlier than usual on the lifts. As soon as you sat down, people would ask how many you had left, and conversations would start up around order / strategy. On this particular lift, I chatted with a group of skiers who told me they’d show me a shortcut to the top of Osprey that allowed me to skip the moguls of upper Bald Eagle (since I had already done that one) and save my legs. I was grateful for that help!

Done with all the double diamonds!

With Osprey now done, I headed to the lift line to start tackling the single blacks, and ran into my friend Chris. Chris was also doing the challenge, but in a different order – he started on Grouse and had only one run to go. Fortunately, it was one I hadn’t done either, so we got to ride the lift together and then take a run down Ravens Ridge. Ravens Ridge had been first on my list of single blacks to tackle anyway, because of a steep part at the bottom that tends to get skied off, and I was relieved to find that it wasn’t icy yet. Fantastic! Chris and I said our goodbyes, but agreed to meet up at the after-party for lunch when we were done.

Meanwhile, I headed back up the Grouse Mountain Express to tackled Ruffed Grouse, Screech Owl, and Ptarmigan. On the way up, our lift stopped a whole bunch of times, and the family I was riding with said that about ten years ago, the Grouse lift had broken down during the Talons Challenge and a ton of people couldn’t finish. Yikes! I started worrying that would happen today, and opined that it would really suck if Grouse broke when I had only two runs left to complete on it. And sure enough, when I got to the bottom after skiing Ruffed Grouse, the lift was totally stopped.

I was just approaching the lift line when they officially closed Grouse, and quickly turned around to head over to Larkspur instead, trying to beat the rush. I beat a lot of people, but there was still a 10 minute wait in the singles line before I could get on Larkspur. Meanwhile, I chatted with others in line about what would happen if Grouse didn’t reopen. I only had two runs left on that mountain – I didn’t want to be incomplete because of technical difficulties with the lift!

Fortunately, when I got back to the bottom of Larkspur after skiing Loco (the longest / bumpiest of the runs there), Grouse looked to be open again, so I got in the long line – thinking I just wanted to get Grouse done quickly in case it went down again later. Unfortunately, it was still having some kind of capacity issues, so the lifties were letting one chair of people go with two chairs of empties after – which meant a long time in line. All that extra time standing there also meant that people were figuring out their chairlift groups by the time they got to the front, so being in the singles line turned out to be a disadvantage. But eventually I made it to the front of the line and was on my way back up Grouse. I decided to do Screech Owl, which starts from the very top and runs kind of off the back side; my hope was that if Grouse Lift broke again, I could take Birds of Prey and possibly do a massive cut across the mountain (plus a bit of hiking) to get Ptarmigan checked off, which was the last one I needed on Grouse.

Fortunately, the lift was still working when I got done with Screech Owl (though of course with a long line), so I didn’t have to do any hiking. Phew! (Plus, I’m not entirely sure my cut across strategy would have worked.) I now had all the trails on Grouse done, and just two easy ones on Larkspur to do for me to be completely done with the challenge. Good thing, because my legs were exhausted.

Last time from the top of Grouse! Only two runs to go.

Over on Larkspur Bowl, I started with Lupine, which is usually a really easy run for me, but even when I was doing the open blue bowl part at the bottom that takes you back to the lift, my leg muscles were burning. I hoped I could make it through one more run without collapsing or getting hurt! I took the chair up for my final run, and at the very top of Shooting Star (such an apt name for a trail to end the challenge!), I found my friend Chris there too – it was his last run as well! So serendipitous that we were both there at the same time and it was the last run for each of us. Chris was also kind enough to take a photo of me skiing down, so I have that memento of the challenge.

Let’s ignore the fact that my legs are totally shot and I’m skiing with awful form.

We skied up to Talons Lodge at the bottom and high fived – we had done it! I am still in awe that I managed to ski all the black / double black runs on the mountain in one day – when even a year ago, I would have been scared to try all the single blacks, and never would have dreamed of touching a double black. I have come so far in my skiing, and I’m super proud!

I did it! Never thought I’d be able to even do the blacks / double blacks on a mountain, let alone in one day.

Our registration entitled us to lunch – brats and chips, plus a beer. I was psyched for the celebratory beer, until I realized it was Michelob Ultra. Nope, not what I had in mind! I skipped the drink and figured I’d celebrate at a local bar in Minturn later…

Nope nope nope

…until we got off the mountain, and I decided that actually, I’d rather try to beat traffic and drive back to Denver on Saturday rather than wait until morning. Since I figured the traffic would probably be the worst at 4pm, I went back to my house to take my time packing and showering, then hit the road around 5:30pm – when I was hoping the traffic would be a little bit lighter. And it wasn’t bad! I made it in about 2.5 hours, which was only a little longer than usual.

Sunday morning, I was able to met my friend Heather for Body Pump without first having to get up early and drive, which was a nice treat. I am loving Body Pump at Chuze Fitness! This Sunday morning class was pretty packed, but Heather had saved me a spot next to her, and I had a blast. I keep a Google spreadsheet that lists the weights I do for each muscle group, so that I can load the bar with the appropriate weight and also try to be continuously improving, and I really like that it encourages me to lift heavy… or at least as heavy as I can when I’m isolating a muscle group for several minutes without doing anything else.

After Body Pump (and of course the amazing hydromassage after), I stopped by the grocery store, and then went home for some serious cooking. It was time for our monthly cookblog club! This time, we were making the recipes of Jessica in the Kitchen. I couldn’t decide what to make, so ended up doing two desserts: Greek yogurt lemon poppyseed muffins, and salted chocolate chip tahini cookies. Unfortunately, I totally burned the cookies; I am not very good at baking! But the dough was really good 🙂 I thought both recipes were pretty good, but they seemed unnecessarily complicated.

Upon arrival at cookblog club, I got to feast on a brunch-themed menu (which we had chosen in lieu of an ethnic cuisine like we normally choose as our theme). Karlin made Vegan Quiche Muffins with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Spinach, Cathryn made Sweet Potato and Kohlrabi Fritters with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce, and our host Helene made Orange Cranberry Waffles with Maple Cranberry Compote. I liked all three of those recipes quite a bit, but we all agreed that as a general rule across the recipes, there were lots of steps that could have been combined or done in a different order to be more efficient. The end results were pretty good (my burned cookies notwithstanding), but we didn’t feel the recipes were worth the extra effort that we had to put in. There are just so many great cooking blogs out there!

This plate looked really beautiful though! I was stuffed afterward.

However, later that night, Jessica redeemed herself with her coconut chickpea curry, which I made for a girls’ night in with my friend Heather. I skipped the flour to thicken it, and we instead ate it as stew – and it was delicious! While I hadn’t been impressed with the complication of the earlier recipes, this one was super easy, and I was actually able to whip it up while Heather and I were chatting and catching up. This one is a keeper!

Yummm, I can’t wait to make this again. Big win!

In all, I was really proud of everything I did this weekend. From skiing the Talons Challenge, to making the smart decision to come back and rest and get some time to myself to Saturday night, to hitting the gym and seeing a bunch of friends, I felt like I struck a good balance this weekend. There was a little bit of challenge / accomplishment, some relaxation, a good amount of health and fitness, and some time for socialization. If only every weekend could be such a perfect mix!


2 thoughts on “Weekend Recap: Beaver Creek Talons Challenge”

  1. What an AWESOME weekend! I am so so glad that you were able to complete the ski run challenge. Was this challenge rather expensive? Do you think that you will make this a yearly tradition? Also, do you think it would have been more fun if you’d done the challenge with another person instead of just doing a run or two with a friend?
    I am totally going to try to make the chocolate chip cookies and the curry (in stew form). Thanks for sharing!

    1. Yikes, I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize I hadn’t responded! The challenge was $35, which wasn’t bad considering you got lunch and some swag. I’m not totally sure if I will do it every year – I think it would depend on the conditions. (Because really, I could do my own challenge anytime for free and just make it a point to ski all the runs.) But I had SO much fun and definitely want to do it again, either formally or informally 🙂

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